For those of you who have been following our 19-year-old Chandler over the years, I have to tell you that he is doing well. In these last few months, he has taken incredible strides in the right direction. Just yesterday he presented us with a plan for his next steps in life that shows a maturity and a direction our other two children didn’t have until their late twenties. And he’s excited about it. We’ve seen him smile more in the last few weeks than we have his whole life up until recently. Not that this plan is it and his life is now settled — this could change yet several times — but the seriousness is there; the desire to be responsible, and the goal-setting is all the right stuff.
When you watch this happen as a parent, you realize how much is beyond your control. We want to think it’s because of us and our good parenting when our kids make good choices, and blame ourselves when they don’t, but we have little to do with this. As parents, we’ve done right things and we’ve done wrong things; we’ve been wise and we’ve been foolish. You’d think that these would bring corresponding good and bad results, but it doesn’t work that way. The Bible is full of proverbs and stories of wise children being born to foolish parents and vice versa. The law, and even psychology, are all about cause and effect — do this, get these results — but grace operates outside that universe. When we see Chandler displaying a kind of maturing inner strength, we can only sit back, marvel and be thankful to God.
It’s not only that life is not all cause and effect, but we as human beings are given a free will to do with as we please. We can’t create the choices we want our children to make, we can only provide them with the environment in which to make them. God does the same thing with us. And don’t get tied up in the free will/predestination paradox. Just realize those are two sides of the same coin and we can talk about either one as being true even though we cannot hold them both in our minds at the same time.
What we all have to realize is that we will never get the credit for anything we do because it is God working through us (and sometimes in spite of us). We can never boast, “Look what I did!” It is God and God alone. This is bad news for our egos, and great news for our spirits and our inner life in Christ.
So I am marveling at what Chandler is choosing, and I am guessing that God’s relationship with us is similar. He rejoices over our good choices as if they were all up to us, because as far as we know, they are.
The Lord your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing. (Zephaniah 3:17)